Singapore, US agree to update and renew key defence pact

US Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan calling on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana yesterday. They reaffirmed the excellent and longstanding relations between Singapore and the US. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
US Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan calling on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana yesterday. They reaffirmed the excellent and longstanding relations between Singapore and the US. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN, JASMINE CHOONG, JEREMY KWAN

MOU provides for US forces to use Republic's bases; defence ministers reaffirm strong ties

Singapore and the United States have agreed to update and renew a key pact which provides for the US security forces to use Singapore's air and naval bases, and has underpinned the US regional presence for almost 30 years.

In a breakfast meeting yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and US Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan welcomed the imminent renewal of the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the United States Use of Facilities in Singapore, as they reaffirmed the excellent and longstanding bilateral defence relations.

The two ministers also affirmed the need for stable defence ties between the US and China amid increasing trade tensions, and for countries in the region to work together for the security and prosperity of the region, said a media statement from the Ministry of Defence.

The landmark MOU, signed in 1990 by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and then US Vice-President Dan Quayle, is to be renewed by next year. Under this pact, the US has rotationally deployed fighter aircraft for exercises, refuelling and maintenance, as well as littoral combat ships and P-8 Poseidon aircraft to Singapore.

The renewed pact will incorporate partnership elements of the US National Defence Strategy recently articulated for this region.

In their meeting, both sides discussed key bilateral initiatives, including more training detachments for the Republic of Singapore Air Force at a suitable US military base.

Mr Shanahan highlighted the US' intent to remain committed to the region, and to work closely with Asean.

 
 
 
 

Both sides also exchanged views on a wide range of geopolitical developments and regional security issues, including countering the regional terrorism threat.

Mr Shanahan, who is in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue, also called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday at the Istana, and both reaffirmed the excellent and longstanding relations between Singapore and the US.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How were also at the meeting.

PM Lee also expressed appreciation for the US' support for the Singapore Armed Forces' training in the US, said a statement from the Ministry of Defence.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force has multiple training detachments in the US, including at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. It also conducts regular exercises there, such as Exercise Forging Sabre in Arizona.

Both PM Lee and Mr Shanahan also expressed support for the upcoming renewal of the 1990 MOU for the United States Use of Facilities in Singapore.

Mr Shanahan is in Singapore with a delegation of senior US officials, including Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson. Members of the US Congress - both the House of Representatives and the Senate - are also attending the dialogue.

In his major policy speech at the dialogue today, Mr Shanahan is expected to reaffirm continuity in US commitment to Asia, even as the increased tensions in the Middle East claim its attention.

He will also dwell on the Trump administration's vision for the Indo-Pacific, which his predecessor James Mattis also spoke on at last year's dialogue.

Dr Ng also met the defence ministers from Australia, Britain, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea, and a US Senate Armed Services Congressional delegation led by Senator Angus King, on the sidelines of the dialogue yesterday.

The leaders reaffirmed the strong bilateral defence relations between Singapore and their respective countries.

Dr Ng hosted Australia's Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds to lunch yesterday on her inaugural visit to Singapore.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore, US agree to update and renew key defence pact'. Print Edition | Subscribe